You’re probably familiar with the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, in which a proud ruler’s ego prevents him from accepting the obvious truth that he has been fooled by a pair of clever tailors. He demands that his court admire his new set of clothes… despite the obvious fact that the clothes do not exist.
How would you behave in a similar situation, upon discovering that a painful truth you tried to keep secret was actually plain for all to see? Does your reaction change when it’s God and not other people who can see through your mask? That’s the question A Slice of Infinity asks in this devotional:
Imagine finding out that the one thing you have desperately attempted to keep veiled in secrecy was not actually veiled at all. The thought bears the unsettling sense of finding yourself unclothed before a crowded room. Would you feel foolish? Would you run and hide? Or would you insist the veil was still there? [Hans Christian] Andersen ends with a glimpse into the mind of the king: “[The words of the child] made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right. But he thought to himself regardless, ‘Now I must bear up to the end.'” Idols are not easy to own up to; how much more so, when what we idolize is not really there in the first place….
Perhaps Paul’s instruction to “put off falsehood” is sometimes a call to “put off” what is not even there. The call of Christ is no different. He calls us unto himself and requires that we give him everything, but we must come without costume or pretense. We must come as much ready to be honest with ourselves as with him. In the journey of the Christian pilgrim, we walk with Christ through crowds of lost and deceived sheep toward the Cross, and like the disciples on the road to Emmaus our eyes are opened to our own lost and deceived ways. It is as if Jesus himself is a mirror and we are inspecting our new clothes. But he will take from our shoulders our robes of self-importance and false security. He will tear from our grasp our garments of self-pity and shame. Then he will clothe us with garments of salvation and array us in robes of righteousness, and he will remind us that we are his bride.
Have you struggled to relinquish a long-held way of thinking about yourself in the face of Jesus’ call? Is it comforting or terrifying to know that Jesus sees us exactly as we are, no matter what masks we put on to fool ourselves or others?